A government-appointed council of senior religious scholars in
Saudi Arabia condemned terrorism financing and said it is forbidden
by Islamic law.
Saudi Arabia's top religious leaders have condemned terrorism
financing as forbidden by Islamic law, giving added religious weight
and potentially larger punishments to existing civil statutes.
But many analysts are skeptical it will amount to much. The
government-appointed Council of Senior Ulema, which issued the
resolution, holds little weight with those inclined to support
militants. Some Saudi Arabians view their government as too eager to
please the US in its quest to stop terrorism and question the
religious and moral legitimacy of the monarchy. "Ulema" is an Arabic
word the roughly translates as "Muslim scholar."
And Saudi officials agree that for some militants or their
supporters, this stand against terrorist funding won't resonate.
"The extremists, for them it wouldn't make a difference, because
they have their own little fatwa mills where they issue fatwas left
and right," says Nail Al-Jubeir, spokesman for the Saudi embassy in
Washington. "They're going to issue their own fatwas saying it's the
duty of every person to help them, but it doesn't go anywhere.
They're just talking to their own group of people."
Still, Mr. Jubeir says the government hopes the ruling will
eliminate any misunderstandings about what constitutes support for
militant groups and deter people from sending financial support to
Among some analysts, there's a view that the resolution was
created to show the West that Saudi Arabia is committed to fighting
terrorism, rather than to be an effective counterterrorism measure
"This is a political display of opposition to terrorist
activities," says Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at
the American University of Beirut. "The main threat does not come
from officially sanctioned contributions to groups that are regarded
as militant and anti-Western. The main threat comes from private
donations made by Saudi business people and wealthy individuals and
the Saudi statement does not control private donations."
Government-linked charities used to fund a number of groups
accused of terrorism, but under US pressure Saudi Arabia changed its
practices about six years ago and liquidated the Al-Haramain
Foundation, a particular target of US ire.
The council's resolution drew from the Koran, Sunnah (traditions
of the Prophet Mohammed's life), and Islamic law. The council ruled
that "the financing of terrorism; the inception, help or attempt to
commit a terrorist act whatever kind or dimension is forbidden by
Islamic Shariah and constitutes a punishable crime thereby. …